NASA hopes to save lunar CubeSat

The specialists of the LunaH-Map mission hope that they will be able to restore the normal operation of its engines. This will allow the cubesat to reach the Moon in 2024.

Cubesat LunaH-Map (concept). Source: NASA

The LunaH-Map device was built by Arizona State University specialists commissioned by NASA. It is designed to map water ice deposits at the south pole of the Moon. For this purpose, the cubesat is equipped with a neutron spectrometer capable of determining the hydrogen content in the surface layer.

LunaH-Map went into space as one of the passing cargo of the Artemis I mission. Since its launch was postponed several times, mission specialists did not have the opportunity to recharge its batteries, which raised concerns about the Cubesat’s ability to communicate with Earth. However, everything went well and after the separation, LunaH-Map successfully transmitted telemetry.

Unfortunately, problems arose with another component of the device — its power plant. LunaH-Map is equipped with a BIT-3 ion engine. The Cubesat had to perform a maneuver that would put it into a permanent orbit around the Moon. However, due to a jammed valve, the BIT-3 failed to develop the necessary thrust. As a result, LunaH-Map failed to make a course correction and went into interplanetary space.

At the moment, the future of the mission depends on whether the specialists will be able to establish the normal operation of its engine. They plan to use heaters to unlock the valve. If the engineers manage to do this before mid-January, they will be able to use an alternative trajectory that will ensure the arrival of the LunaH-Map to the Moon in January 2024. If they fail to meet the deadline, there are also options to send the cubesat on a flight path to one of the near-Earth asteroids.

To what extent these plans will be justified, it will become clear in the near future. According to the mission’s specialists, the cubesat itself is in good condition. The tests carried out after the launch showed that its spectrometer was operating normally and was able to carry out planned observations.

You can also admire the stunning photo of the Earth taken by the Japanese Hakuto-R spacecraft heading to the Moon.

According to

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